Published On: Mon, Aug 27th, 2018

Curaçao 4.0

WillemstadThe creation of a circular economy leads to an increasing demand for more application-oriented knowledge-intensive workers (know-how). In an industrial society, it was mainly workers with little education who did physical and technical work. As a result of an acute shortage of workers that arose immediately after WWII, workers were trained at a rapid rate. The knowledge provided through educational institutions had a theoretical basis ("knowledge") as opposed to the practical knowledge gathering of workers in factories. The introduction of the digital age by "Smart Nation" also means that a lot of people's work is automated and/or robotized.

For fewer specialized jobs, fewer employees are needed. This development is now clearly visible at United Telecommunication Services (UTS) in Curaçao, where the dismissal of 220 employees is one of the effects of this transition. International companies that dominate the branch of innovation wear very technological glasses, but with too little attention for the social effects of these transitions. Examples include companies such as Uber, AirBnB, Task Rabbit, Elance-Upwork, Lyft, Zaarly, Etsy, Washio and Postmates. Many of these companies originated in the San Francisco Bay Area and are thought to be 'avatars' of the new entrepreneurship. Global demand for raw materials will continue to fall in the future.

But the demand for recycled products as a result of the circular economy will continue to increase, because these can be produced much cheaper in the future. In order to constantly develop new reusable products, new, innovative, practical and specialized knowledge is therefore always required. Curaçao can respond to this need by, for example, creating innovation zones. By applying Smart Growth, new insights into the planning and the effective use of legal-planning instruments, Curaçao can set up such innovation zones that simultaneously function as 'living labs' at the service of the circular economy. Setting up innovation zones creates the conditions for realizing new forms of construction for its spatial development and the creation of products that are necessary to facilitate economic growth. The innovation zones act as a catalyst for a new flow of socio-economic and product developments. This way the way can be made free to realize a transition, from an industrial to a circular economy instead of the current stagnating economy.

These developments and transitions require different forms of leadership. This does not necessarily mean looking at politics but at active citizens and entrepreneurs, who develop bottom-up initiatives themselves, also as volunteers (including CuraDOET). Examples are DIY ('do-it-yourself' economy) entrepreneurs, new networks and the group of self-employed entrepreneurs/freelancers. There lies a great source of creativity, innovation capacity and the urge for social change. The current labor market in Curaçao is dominated by monopolists and/or oligopolies in the form of governmental companies and bureaucratized ministries that considerably disrupt the flexibility in production and free market forces.

In order to allow free-lance professional groups (self-employed people/freelancers) to compete and survive, traditional labor regulations and social laws must be adapted. The government has a facilitating role and should give priority to these groups through the new policy. They should receive a "red carpet" treatment. In other words, the government should empower startups, small and medium-sized local entrepreneurs. Continuous development and strengthening of local know-how should take place through "continuous learning". The provision of high-quality educational and training facilities is of great importance as an incentive for entrepreneurship.

Inseparable from empowerment is the development and promotion of e-commerce through the introduction of new legislation, allowing the online economy to develop flexible and quick. Think, for example, of allowing cheap electronic online payment systems, facilitating startups, of small and medium-sized local entrepreneurs. Local legislation must also be adapted so that alternative international loan options without establishment permit requirements from the Central Bank can quickly come within reach for start-ups. Consider stimulating "crowd funding" without requiring a local business license to a potential (international) lender.

By Sharnon Isenia

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